Earning a wage instead of clocking up a student loan gives engineering apprentice James Thompson the freedom to spend money on the things he loves – his cars.
“The difference between me and my friends is that they all go to university and they’re studying really hard all the time. They’ve got a student loan whereas I have no student loan. They have to catch the bus to uni every day but I work so I can drive my car wherever I want. I’ll probably be able to buy a house sooner and move out and do more things.”
James is an ATNZ apprentice hosted by Automac in Auckland, an engineering company that specialises in the design and manufacture of conveyors and packaging machinery used in food and beverage processing. “My apprenticeship is in general engineering so I get to do a bit of everything – sometimes I do a bit of machining or some welding or some assembly. I work all over the place in the factory. One of the things that I enjoy most is the variety of stuff that we get to do – it’s never just one thing.
“At Automac we all get along really well, we’re all into the same sort of stuff and we have a good laugh most days.”
Once a month James meets with his ATNZ account manager and they go over a progress report of how James is doing with his bookwork and e-learning, and they set goals for the next month. “I do most of my bookwork at home and then a lot of the learning for the bookwork is done here at work. The most challenging thing for me is actually doing the course work but whenever my account manager is due to come in, it motivates me to get it done.”
James’s dad is also an engineer and he was fascinated and inspired by the things he would see his dad working on. At high school, James did engineering as a subject, and he chose to apply for an ATNZ apprenticeship when he finished school. “The whole process was pretty easy, as long as you know how to use a computer then you can apply for an apprenticeship.”
Outside of work, James is part of a Rovers crew – like Scouts for adults. They volunteer for community work, organise social events, go on hikes and ski trips, and take part in car racing. He also spends a bit of time in his garage working on his cars – a Ford Ka and a Nissan 300ZX. “One of my cars runs and I use it every day and the other one’s up on blocks and most of the engine’s out and I need to put a new one in with turbos.
“One of the advantages of not having a student loan is that I can buy more car parts.”